“It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter”
- John Muir
Before we get started, here are some things you should know about Yosemite:
It's on the eastern side of California towards Nevada and is approximately over a 4 hour drive from Los Angeles and over 3 hours from San Francisco (that's without including traffic delays).
It really is huge, spreading over 745,000 acres!
There are over 3.8 million visitors a year making it one of the most popular National Parks in the US.
It‘s has even been a World Heritage Site since 1984.
You can go hiking, biking, rock climbing, birdwatching, fishing, horse-riding...
Considering the amount of things to see and do, it's best to plan your trip in advance.
☞ Best time to go
Late spring is meant to be the best season as you can enjoy all the flowers in full bloom and the rivers and cascades flowing with fresh water from the snowmelt. If you like warmer temperatures then you should visit during the summer however most of the rivers and cascades will have dried up by then... If you want to do some skiing and prefer the fresh cooler days then winter is ideal (do bear in mind that some roads are closed, such as the one accessing the Glacier Point).
🚗 Getting there
The main way of reaching to the park is by car. Some of the roads in the park are closed from November to May due to poor weather conditions so the free shuttle buses do come in handy to get around certain areas - click here for more info. Entrance to the park is 30$ per car, we were very happy to get free entrance on the day we went as the Park was celebrating its 100 years of service.
There are several entrances on each point of the park and you will probably choose one or the other depending on where you’re arriving from and what you plan on visiting (North: Hetch Hetchy Entrance; East: Tioga Pass Entrance; South: South Entrance – Oakhurst or Arch Rock Entrance – Mariposa; West: Big Oak Flat Entrance).
🏨 Where to stay
Your planned itinerary and the time you will be spending in Yosemite will be important factors when deciding where to stay...
As we arrived at night from San Francisco and were only visiting for a day, we stayed the night at the Comfort Inn in Oakhurst (only 99$ for last-minute reservation). The room was spacious and we had a comfortable king size bed. Breakfast was nice, especially the homemade waffles you could make yourself. It’s nothing fancy but is the right place for a good night’s sleep not that far from Yosemite.
We met a Canadian couple who had stayed two nights in a tent inside the park at the Half Dome Village which sounded rather cool. We shall keep that in mind for another time…
As we reached Yosemite we realised that we were entering a vast area of pure wilderness and that maybe we should have planned our trip a bit better and even stayed longer than one day…
Thankfully, the main places that we wanted to see were accessible by car even though we actually would have loved to have gone hiking along certain trails.
You can reach the Glacier Point by car and it's approximately a one hour drive from the Oakhurst entrance. Once you reach the top at 3000 feet high, the views over the valley and of the famous Half Dome (iconic granite cliff) are spectacular. There are also lots of hiking trails that reach the Glacier Point from the valley (average trails between 2 and 6 hours walk).
There are several things to see in the valley and it’s also a great spot for having a little pause and a bite to eat. Beware of the bees and squirrels who will happily join you (and annoy you) for lunch. From the valley you can see El Capitan, another impressive granite cliff and the Merced River.
You can also walk around the Lower Yosemite Fall Trail (1 mile) for about 30 minutes to see the Yosemite Falls.
Unfortunately when we visited in the summer there was only a trickle of water that you could see at the top of Yosemite Falls...
Other great things to see in the park are: Olmsted Point, Lembert Dome, Cathedral Peak, Hetch Hetchy Valley, Tuolumne Meadows and the Sequoia Groves (Mariposa Grove, Merced Grove and Tuolumne Grove). Did you know that Sequoias can live for over 2000 years and that their trunks can reach over 25 feet thick?! These impressive trees are a symbol of Yosemite so you should definitely go and check them out.
The National Park Service website has all the practical information you may need so do have a look to find out more.
There are so many wonderful places to visit in California but I must say that Yosemite is one of my personal favourites and I would recommend anyone visiting the region to go and discover its beautiful wilderness.
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English and French wanderer. Based in Paris. Tasting the world through one escape to another...